The doomed satellite plummeted through Earth’s atmosphere hours later than scientists had originally predicted, but despite its uncontrolled re-entry, agency officials maintained throughout that the risk to public safety was very remote.
The Pacific Ocean was the crash site for NASA’s dead satellite.
NASA’s dead satellite started its re-entry to Earth early Saturday morning. The 6-ton UARS satellite was the biggest spacecraft to fall uncontrolled in 32 years. The space agency’s calculations had predicted it would fall over a 500-mile radius.
The agency said the 35-foot satellite fell sometime between 11:23 p.m. EDT and 1:09 a.m. EDT. The agency didn’t know the precise time or location yet. Some 26 pieces of heavy metal were expected to rain down.
NASA’s Dead Satellite Questions On Why It Fell
Most satellites like UARS are in low-Earth orbit, so they experience some atmospheric drag. This causes them to drop out of orbit. This happens to satellites all the time, and only one person in 54 years has ever been hit by one.
Russia’s 135-ton Mir space station slammed through the atmosphere in 2001, but it was a controlled dive into the Pacific.
NASA put the chances that somebody somewhere on Earth would get hurt at 1-in-3,200. However, any one person’s odds of being struck were estimated at 1-in-22 trillion, given there are 7 billion people on the planet.